Fear of change must not block vital reform

The proposed review of LUSU’s sabbatical officerships has inspired mixed feelings across campus. There have been sighs of relief that LUSU is finally giving its members the opportunity to decide on their representation; there have been some constructive—and some not-so-constructive—criticisms and amendments suggested. Whilst everyone seems to agree that LUSU should be a Union for all students, a select few seem to be wary or afraid of stepping over the threshold of change.

There have been comments from the sidelines and protests from afar. When challenged with the opportunity to suggest changes, discuss ideas, offer an alternative or justify arguments, we have been faced with a not-so-confident, silent group of backseat drivers.

It is vital that this Sabbatical review is seen holistically; it balances the workload of the Sabbs, provides clear and descriptive job titles; it offers representation for all students at the most senior level of our Union; it meets the challenges faced by a 21st century student union; and it offers the opportunity to provide a more relevant, inclusive and powerful voice for our students. Having said that, I am willing to meet the select few I’ve mentioned on their terms of debate.

It would be dangerous to stray into the territory of comparing the current Sabbatical team to the newly proposed structure. If we take a narrow approach that concentrates on single posts, titles, or a handful of students—rather than the student population as a whole—then we lose the bigger picture, and with it the impetus behind the change.

The emergence of a Vice-President for Equality, Welfare and Diversity has put a cat amongst the pigeons for the defenders of the Women’s Officer position. There is a suggestion that this new remit is too big for any single person to take on; quite how that stacks up with the current structure where a single individual (Education and Welfare Officer) has to deal with two of the largest remits in the Union, I am not sure.

An argument has been circulated that the position of Women’s Officer already covers most of the responsibilities within the new Equality, Welfare and Diversity remit, and that a guaranteed position for Women is needed in the Sabbatical team. Two issues arise from this rhetoric. Firstly, it undermines the ability of a Woman to be elected to any position of the Sabbatical team by virtue of her ability, and gives the impression that a foot-up is needed in order to secure female representation. Secondly, it fails to deal with the fact the current Sabbatical team could be all white, or all heterosexual.

Providing societies with senior level representation in the guise of a Vice-President Student Activities has also caused controversy, specifically amongst sections of the Athletic Union. Again, concerns are raised over workload and remit; however, students must be aware that currently societies are represented by the General Secretary, who has elections, Extravs, finance, JCRs, Christmas balls, Grad Ball, Intro Week and societies to deal with; the Athletic Union President, on the other hand, merely has Athletic Union clubs to deal with.

Allowing a Vice-President Student Activities to support and represent Societies and the Athletic Union equally will provide the opportunity for student activities to be championed by the Union at a senior level as a priority for our students.

Another hot potato of this debate has been the suggested role of a Vice-President Media and Communication. There have been calls by a select few for the abolition of SCAN; others have suggested that a part-time officer could fulfil the role of Editor; some have also suggested that the SCAN Editor’s remit is currently too focussed and narrow. This is precisely why the remit of the VP-Media and Communications broadly encompasses all types of media, why it suggests regular meetings between the VP and University Press officer, and why it encourages the Union to make press releases to the local press where necessary.

This is your chance to make LUSU a Union for all students. Don’t allow this to be a change stopped by backseat drivers: step up to the plate and make your voice heard.

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4 Comments

  1. *yawn* i offered my thoughts and you guys saw fit not to publish them on the sabbreview site. so much for open debate. changing the name of scan to media does little to disguise the point that this is the lowest workload of all the “new” sabbs. no end of non-sabbs around the country manage to handle student media without blowing £15k on someone to oversee them. gen sec is not overloaded, and whilst i might agree that ed & welfare has a large remit, combining welfare, equality and diversity with the women’s officer remit makes that role waaaaay too large. also you are suggesting that sports societies are unimportant, as the gen sec has managed fine so far. i don’t doubt you will stifle debate further by ignoring and possibly even removing this comment as you did my others. do me proud, dan, and let genuine debate reign for a change over your new labour stitch-ups.

  2. Dan if the AU President only has the AU Clubs to deal with can you tell me what i was doing for 4 hours today (23/11/08) in the sports centre? Answer Carter Shield, where all the Lancaster University Colleges play each other at a variety of sports throughout the year, today was Womens 6 a side Indoor Football for the record.

    On my way to the sports centre i happened to noticed footballers from Lonsdale college and Cartmel college, oh wait we also play Inter college football every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday see’s the Colleges again playing more sport, this time Darts (men and womens leagues), Pool (2 mens leagues and 1 womens leagues) and Dominoes. And finally we also have a Netball league again where the Colleges again play each other throughout the year.

    In summer term we also have the summer cups for Football and Netball. It could be argued that the Inter College Chairs run the Carter Shield Events but who supports them? Who also sits on all IC meeting including Football, Netball, George Wyatt (Bar Sports) and the ICSC (Inter College Sports Committee), answer the AU President.

    BUCS this year is huge, never before at any University across the country has there been so much ‘Elite’ sport on offer or played. BUCS is now played right through till the end of lent term, with the knockout stages played throughout the season instead of at the end as BUSA used to do. AU’s throughout the country are struggling to cope with the amount of fixtures demanded by the new BUCS organisation. And as a side note Lancaster was the only Univeristy in our region to vote against this new style of sport, last years AU President was extremely vocal about the changes, but was out voted by the rest of the North West Committee.

    Finally th AU President is also working hard at trying to make ROSES the event it is, the biggest inter varsity sporting event in the UK, and a showcase for both sport at Lancaster and York, and also a medium to showcase the University itself. As you know from Union Council this is proving very difficult with the issues from our friends at York Uni.

    The argument of comparing the Gen Sec and AU Pres in a negative light, used by yourself here and by LUSU President Michael in the AU EGM 13/11/08, is totally wrong and worthless, and it shows that not only is the University not bothered about sport at Lancaster but neither are members of the SABB team. I hope my comments have enlightened you in work load of the AU President, thank you.

    Nathaniel Farrell
    LUSU AU Non Sabb and County Sports Rep

  3. If your job is so hard Mr Farrell, then perhaps it shows what a tough time combining such a huge undertaking that is the 7 days a week sport & clubs calendar with the responsibilities of running the societies. This would mean any time undertaken by the new proposed VP would surely be taken up with sporting persuits. I know I am not the only one who thinks this, in fact not one person I have spoken to (who has given the matter proper thought) believes otherwise, be they from a club or a society.
    Thereare also many other flaws in the proposals. I do believe change is necessary but I do not believe accepting the first proposal which comes our way is correct. This is a blind-following by lemmings/students to presume the the President must know best and dare not to question or think for themselves. There are a number of people (myself included I hasten to add) who have not read at any length the proposals and therefore must be unclear on many issues which, heard by word of mouth, will surely have been twisted (Chinese whispers style) and moulded, to fit the speakers personal opinions.
    I urge students to do some investigations of their own and vote for the answer which they believe to be correct. Not what their neighbour tells them, or not just to please LUSU.
    Evidently much has gone unsaid about the problems of other proposed positions because this message would become absurdly long and as I have stated I am not learned enough in the matter, but that is not to say that everything is fine.

  4. Sorry was only told today that Michael actually wrote this, so the comment is now directly at Michael as he wrote it.

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